For the past couple days I've been using a coffee mug from the church that reads:
"Reformed Presbyterian Church of West Lafayette: 25 years of Serving & Sending. Charter Member." It's sort of an ever-present, caffeinated reminder that I am neither a pioneer nor a pilgrim in my position as a church planter. (For those of you who don't know, our church has since relocated to become the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette and a group of us are now heading toward church planting back in West Lafayette. The original church was planted in 1968.)
A couple weeks ago, we went to Michigan to attend the funeral of the original church planter of the West Lafayette RPC, Ray Joseph, who, I'm thankful to say, baptized my dear wife back in the day. He was far more of a pilgrim and pioneer than I. He arrived here with much sacrifice and little fanfare and was used by God to found a church that is flourishing today due, in part, to his faithful planting and watering.
After Pastor Joseph, the current (most senior) pastor, Dave Long, arrived, and has been here for well past 2 decades. Through his passion for discipleship and his faithful, loving ministry to the saints, the church has continued to grow. I, for one, am part of that growth. When my wife came to Purdue, she rejoined the church of her youth and dragged me, kicking and screaming, into the church by marrying me. For which I am forever grateful. Much of my training came from Dave, both directly and by observation.
And now here we are, ready (d.v.) to plant another church in West Lafayette. We're trying a different tack than has been used by many RP churches elsewhere: instead of sending one or two families, we're hoping to send up to 15 families out of our congregation. Less like planting a seed than planting a whole branch. When I get to tell people how we're going about things, I often grin and admit, "It feels like we're cheating." But it's not really. It's more like standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before, reaping the harvest of their ministry and replanting it.
Through some recent counseling and sermon prep, I keep coming back to the ridiculous independence of many Christians. Lone Ranger Christians are dead ranger Christians, they say. It's as true in our spiritual disciplines and encouragements as it is in church planting. To view ourselves as distinct or separate from the saints of the ages is to not only lose some of our heritage, but also some of our connection to the God of the ages. How blest we are to benefit from the cloud of witnesses, both living and dead. As we were humbled on the day of our salvation to admit that nothing good came from us and we desperately and totally needed another, may God continue to drive from us the spirit of independence and pride. May we be glad to stand on shoulders.
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.